Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mom Said

Mom said I could be her guest blogger because she's too tired. She said it's because I’m so curious.  I don’t know why my being curious about things should make her so tired.

Anyway. I'm supposed to introduce myself. My name is Cooper. Mom and Dad said I'm named after the actor who played Will Kane in a movie called "High Noon." Their last dog (he was a cousin of mine) was named Wyatt Earp, and they said naming me Cooper kept up with the Western theme – because I'm an Australian Shepherd, and even though we're called Australian, we were bred in the American West. (That's confusing). They also said that Gary Cooper was handsome and I'm handsome, too.

Mom told Dad I was a really good puppy today. She also said, "All things considered." (Do you know what she's considering?) She said I kept her busy. I kept me busy, too. After all, I am a working dog. I had a lot of work to do.

I've never lived in a house before, and I'm learning there are a lot of rules. I'm not allowed to piddle wherever I want. In fact, I'm not supposed to piddle inside at all. I'm not sure why, but Mom gets so happy when I piddle on the grass that I'm really trying to remember.

Mom gave me toys and said I could chew on them. I like my soft toy. (It squeaks!)  But there's all this other stuff that Mom says I can't chew at all. Not the chair or the table leg or the handle on the fireplace inset or the computer cords. Not even her hair or her toes. I try and sneak in a quick nibble here and there, you know, when Mom's not looking. She's pretty smart though and catches me right away. Still, I'm thinking some day that I'll be able to get to that fireplace handle. I'll just have to chew fast.

And I learned to go down the stairs! They scared me at first, but I finally went down each and every one (the treats helped). Mom told me I was very brave, just like that hero Gary Cooper played.

Once I made it down the stairs I got to visit Mom's sewing room. She has a lot of stuff in there. (I'm not supposed to chew on any of it either, but I don't think she'd notice if I chewed up just one or two things, do you?) Mom said we'll visit the sewing room a lot. She sure was busy in there. She said tomorrow I can show you what she's working on.

Mom just gave a big yawn and told Dad it's been a long day. I think she must be right because when I think about all I've done today, I'm tired, too. I'm going to sleep now. Last night I whined a little when they put me in the crate (cause I missed my brother), but I'm going to try and be very brave and not whine at all tonight. And tomorrow I'm going to remember to piddle outside each and every time. Cause, you know, when Mom's happy, I'm happy.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Wyatt Earp

I am just so sad to say I have lost my most loyal sewing buddy.  Wyatt, who thought it was his special job to provide companionship as I played in the sewing room, is no longer with us.  It seems that quite without our knowing it, he had developed a very aggressive cancer.  (We have since learned it is sometimes referred to as a “silent killer” because by the time symptoms appear, it has reached critical mass).  So, completely without warning, and far too soon, he is gone.

We are going to miss him terribly but, at the same time, we feel both blessed and grateful for all the love and joy he brought into our lives.  As our son said, “He was the perfect dog.”  We certainly felt so.  And my sewing room sure felt lonely when I visited it this morning . . . .

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Fast and Easy Hot Pads

First, there was the pile of scraps left over from making the tessellating pinwheel placemats.

So, I began by cutting them down to two inch squares.  The squares that are leftovers from the tessellating pinwheel pattern, however, are all on the bias.  Could get ugly.  That is why the pattern I give here uses interfacing.  I rather like the way the interfacing adds some firmness anyway, so it worked out for the best, I say.

Size: 8" by 11"

Materials (makes two)

  • 42 two-inch squares
  • Light-weight fusible interfacing: 15" by 15"
  • Sashing strips: 4 rectangles 2" by 11"
  • Backing: 2 rectangles 9" by 12"
  • Batting: 4 rectangles 9" by 12"
  • Insul-Brite: 2 rectangles 9" by 12"
  • Binding: 1/8 yard

Supplies – The Quilter’s Cut ‘n Press is going to make this much easier.  You could use a cutting mat to give you the grid lines but you would need to be very careful as you moved your interfacing over to an ironing board not to shift the squares in process.  (This is why I am a dedicated gadget girl – you just gotta love the tools).

1.  When light-weight fusible interfacing is placed over this ruled ironing mat, you can see right through it.  Isn’t that convenient? 


Place the  interfacing, fusible side up, on top of the ruled ironing mat.  Using the ruled lines as a guide, lay out your squares.

2.  Once a goodly area is filled up, use a pressing sheet and lightly tack down the squares.

Then move the interfacing over and continue laying squares   until you complete a  6 by 7 grid.

3.  Once the grid is complete, trim off the extra interfacing and iron well to make sure all the patches are secure.

4.  Fold down one of the six patch rows and sew a quarter inch seam.

5.  Continue to fold and sew until all the horizontal rows have been sewn.

6.  Using a ruler and rotary cutter, trim a smidgen off of each seam.

7.  Just enough so that you can press the seams open, like this:

8.  Cut the strips apart into 6 rows of seven patches each.


9.  Join the strips as pictured.  Press seams towards the solid sashing strips.  (NOTE:  I used linen for my backing and sashing strips.  Linen can be terribly stretchy.  I solved that problem by very heavily starching the fabric so that it was quite stiff.)

10.  Create a quilt sandwich.  Begin by stacking your layers: the backing right side down, one piece of batting, the Insul-Brite, a second layer of batting, the pieced section (right side up). 

11.  Quilt as desired.  I stitched straight lines down the sashing strips and left the pieced sections unquilted (this gives them a bit of poof.)  I also stitched down the edges of the long sides to make it easier to bind.

12.  Trim and bind.  For binding, I cut 1 1/2" wide strips and used the single-fold method I described in the Tessellating Pinwheel tutorial which you can find here


I think this same pattern would make up a very cute pot holder.  I’d just use five squares per vertical row instead of seven and create a loop with the binding.  Easy peasy. 

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Xmas in July Placemats

Our local quilt shop celebrated their annual Christmas in July this last week.  Every day at noon there is some pattern or technique taught.  I did a class on those ever-so-fun tessellating pinwheels.  So, to celebrate the theme, I made up a set of Xmas placemats.

Here’s a closer look:

I used two charm square packs and – boy, this really pleases me – used every single square in making up the placemats. 

For anyone who is interested, here’s the basic supplies and directions:

Materials (to make four placemats)

  • 2 charm packs (42 squares each)
  • 3/4 yard pinwheel border fabric
  • 1 fat quarter outer border
  • 1 fat quarter backing strips
  • 1/3 yard binding
  • 2 packages of Rick-Rack

Supplies – Once again I used the L’il Twister template to cut out the pinwheels.


1.  Sew up a three by four grid of the charm squares and add borders.  (Make four)

2.  Use the L’il Twister template to cut the squares into the tessellating pinwheels and them sew them together.  (See here for a blog entry that provides a detailed look at how the L’il Twister template works).

Tip:  This pattern is one of those times where my portable design wall (click here for a tutorial on how to make one) is really useful.  I have it set up by my cutting table as I cut out the squares and then move it over to the sewing machine when I’m ready to sew.  

3.  Add border strips.  (I cut my strips 1 1/2" by 12 1/2").

4.  Layer with batting and backing and “quilt as desired.”  For this pattern, since these are destined to be utilitarian, I settled for some very simple stitch in the ditch.

5.  Add the Rick-Rack.  I use my good buddy Roxanne’s Glue-Baste-It to hold the rick-rack in place while I sew.

Binding – I thought I would show my method for adding single fold binding.  It isn’t very fancy and is part of my “I really hate handwork” attitude.  One of my absolute most favorite quilt teacher’s once said in a class that she thought it was tacky to machine sew your binding.  Hmmmm.  Then I shrugged.  Hey, I thought, I’m from New Jersey.  No one who falls in love with the Jersey shore can have that much of a problem with tacky, right?  So, there it is.  I decided that, given my roots, tacky is just like mother’s milk to me!  So, here’s my tacky, easy, less than perfect way of adding binding for when I’m making something simple and utilitarian and I don’t think the back needs to be a thing of beauty.  (And after an introduction like that, how can you resist?)

1.  Cut your binding into 1 1/2" wide strips.

2.  Attach a strip (no folds) to one of the short sides (on the front) of the placemat: Sew from the front, using a quarter inch seam allowance.  Then iron the strip back away from the quilt to get a nice clean edge.

3.  Turn over to the other side and fold the raw edge of the binding in to meet the raw edge of the placemat.  Press.

4.  Run a line of glue down the binding.

5.  Fold over and press.

6.  Then, from the front side of the quilt, stitch in the ditch.  (I usually match my thread to the color of the binding since when my stitching goes a little off track, I am most likely to stitch up onto the binding.  When I am really worried about the thread color causing a problem, I use invisible thread on top). 

7.  Repeat for the opposite side of the placemat.  Trim the binding even with the edge of the placemat.

8.  Now add a strip to one of the long sides.  Be sure to have about an inch of overlap off of each edge.  Once again, fold the fabric down and press.

9.  Trim the overlap to about 5/8".  (I just eyeball this; it doesn’t need to be exact).  I then trim out some of the folded over fabric to lessen bulk.

10.  I also trim off just a wee bit from the corner of the placemat itself.  This allows me to get a nice smooth foldover in the next steps.

11.  Once again, I apply glue.

12.  Then I fold in the flap and apply more glue.

13.  Now it’s time to fold over the binding and press in place. 

14.  Once again, flip over and stitch in the ditch from the front side.  Here is what it looks like on the back once you are finished.

15.  And here it is, all finished. 

Of course, you could make this look nicer.  You could, for instance, cut your strips a little less than 1 1/2" and have your stitching wind up closer to the edge of the binding.  You could still hand sew the binding.  And, of course, if the idea of all that glue bothers you, you could use pins.

What I like most about single fold binding is that it adds far less in the way of bulk – most quilts just don’t need a double fold for any good utilitarian purpose.

Here’s a close up of the remaining two placemats in the set:

You may be wondering how I used up all of the charm squares since there are some left over from making up the tessellating pinwheels.  I used them on the back.  I pieced nine patch blocks and added a little border strip to each side (I cut mine 3" wide) to fit the placemat.  And there it is – I used every one of those charm squares!

Of course, I did wind up with a little left over – all those little scraps that are waste from the pinwheels.

I’m thinking I can use those somehow someway.  Pot holders?  Hot pads?  Something to match the placemats could be pretty darn cute, I think.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Flat Pencil Case Tutorial

I wanted to try another flat pencil case with the zipper higher up rather than centered.  Here it is.  (In the photo, the case looks a little wider at the bottom than at the top, but that is an illusion created by the camera angle.  The actual shape is perfectly rectangular.)

Here it is with the zipper open:

Finished Size: 8 1/2" by 5"


  • Front upper fabric: 2" by 9 1/2"
  • Front bottom fabric: 5" by 9 1/2"
  • Back fabric: 6" by 9 1/2"
  • Lining fabric: same as for the outer fabrics
  • Interfacing:
    • 1 1/2" by 8 1/2"
    • 4 1/2" by 8 1/2"
    • 5" by 8 1/2"
  • Zipper: for ease of assembly, 12" or longer
  • Steam-A-Seam 2 quarter-inch fusible tape

(Ahem.  You may notice in the photo above a little red rectangle not listed in the materials list.  That was for the side tabs that I intended to add and then forgot about until after I had sewn the side seams.  Not to worry, this pencil case doesn’t really need those side tabs anyway.  I have a quilting buddy who says that she very, very rarely undoes something.  She just looks at it and says, “Well, that’s how God intended it.”  So, when the master of the universe decides this case doesn’t need side tabs, who am I to argue?)


1.  Iron the interfacing on the wrong side of the outer fabric.  Notice that on the back piece, the interfacing is centered with a 1/2" seam allowance on all four sides.  With the front pieces, the interfacing lines up with the bottom and has the half-inch seam allowance at the sides and top.

2.  Iron the quarter inch fusible tape onto the top and bottom of the zipper on both the front and back.  The red arrow points to where I started the tape:  it is easiest to attach the zipper when the zipper pull is off to the side (which is also why we start with a bigger zipper than we need).

3.  Place the upper front lining fabric right side up.  Remove the paper from the top of the back side of the zipper.  Line up the top edge of the zipper and the fabric -- with the zipper right side up and the pull off the edge of the fabric.  Fuse in place.

4.  Remove the paper from the top of the zipper.  Place the upper front fabric on top of the zipper (so that the lining and outer fabrics are right sides together) and fuse in place.  (Notice that the top edge of the fabric does not have interfacing.)

5.  Using a zipper foot, sew along the edge of the zipper.

6.  Fold both the lining and the front fabric back away from the zipper and press to get a good clean fold.  Top stitch along the edge.

Tip: I use an Edge Stitch foot (a number 10 for my 1530 Bernina) to get a nice clean topstitch.  The front bar tucks right against the fold and keeps everything lined up perfectly.

7.  Repeat to attach the bottom of the front piece.  When you are done, it will look like this.

8.  You can now trim off the extra zipper length.  Be sure to open the zipper so that you do not cut off the zipper pull!

9.  To hold together the open side of the zipper (which will make succeeding steps a little easier), line up the teeth and stitch back and forth a few times along the edge  to hold in place.

10.  Your top piece will be just a hair longer than the remaining lining piece and the backing.  Stack the three on top of each other (with the front piece on the bottom) and cut off the extra bit of fabric so that the size is the same for all three pieces.  (Sorry, I forgot a photo of this step).

11.  Stack the three units beginning with the lining right side up, the front piece outer side up, and the backing right side down.  (The offset in the photo below is for demonstration purposes only.  Your pieces should stack exactly on top of each other).

12.  Sew along the top with a 1/2" seam allowance.

When you are done, it will look like this when you open up the lining:

And like this, when you open up the outer fabrics:

Now is a good time to make sure that your zipper is half way open.

13.  Flip your fabrics so that the outer fabrics are on one side of the zipper and the lining fabrics are on the other. 

14.  Sew along the bottom of the lining fabrics using a half-inch seam allowance.  Leave a 3" gap for turning. 

15.  Now sew along the bottom of the outer fabrics using a half-inch seam allowance.

16.  You now have a unit where the top of the case is sewn together through all the layers but at the bottom, the lining and the outer fabrics are sewn separately.

17.  Pin the side seams together.  To make the corners behave a little better when they are turned inside out, fold down the seam allowances with the lining fabrics folding to the lining side and the outer fabrics folding to the outer.  (I know that sounds a little confusing.  Not to worry, if you just sew straight top to bottom it will also work).

18.  After the side seams are sewn, trim the corners to reduce bulk.

19.  Turn the case inside out through the opening in the lining.  Use the opening in the lining to give you access to push the corners of the case out.  After you are satisfied that the corners are in good shape, sew the gap in the lining closed. 

20.  Now turn the bag inside out through the zipper opening.  Press and you’re done! 

NOTE:  it would be easy enough to turn this into a wristlet.  Simply add a strap to the top of the front piece right after step 8 or 9.  If I were going to make up a wristlet (could happen), I’d also add in some fusible fleece for a little bit of quilting texture as well.

Since I am into school accessories at the moment, I’ll admit that I’ve drafted some rough ideas for how to create another folder to hold papers.  It remains to be seen if my idea will work or not.   Wish me luck.